A divided San Diego Unified board just approved $33.2 million in budget cuts for the current school year without layoffs or cutting salaries. The move is expected to cover the entirety of the shortfall in state funding that San Diego Unified is bracing for this year.

The measures include $6.2 million saved by keeping vacant jobs open for the rest of the school year, $7.7 million in cuts from central office departments including $3 million saved by not replacing aging school buses, and reducing the ending balance by $4 million. They do not include furloughs, layoffs or salary cuts.

The two dissenting members of the school board, Katherine Nakamura and John de Beck, felt that the choices were not explained sufficiently or might not be genuine savings. Central office savings, for instance, were not explained thoroughly beyond a simple summary that read, in part, “Savings were identified from central office budgets. Expenditure activities planned during the year were postponed or terminated.”

Staffers gave a few more details upon request — the legal office said it was halving its supply budget from $12,000 to $6,000, for example — but no detailed breakdown of the cuts was available when the board made the decision.

Nakamura reminded the board that it was recently informed that the budget for special education training was gutted last year — a change that the board approved without realizing it had approved it, Nakamura said. She pushed unsuccessfully to delay the decision until the next budget meeting on Saturday.

School board member Richard Barrera, who voted for the cuts, said the questions were valid but not essential to pushing forward with the planned cuts.

“We want to meet this crisis head-on in a way that avoids layoffs, that avoids cuts that are going to be felt by our students,” Barrera said. “The staff is doing this work, doing this analysis, and I am frankly not interested in a whole lot of micromanagement on this.”

The school board also must calculate cuts for next school year. Staffers have presented the board with a menu of options that include a golden handshake for employees, eliminating enrichment programs in Old Town and Balboa Park, and closing small elementary schools and sending their students elsewhere.


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